EXCURSION INTO ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES
by Bjarke Mogensen
For an accordionist it can feel just as natural to work with music by a living composer as when a pianist works with Beethoven or Brahms. The accordion is a young instrument and still has a scarcity of original repertoire and a great need to develop new expression and sounds. That is why it is so fantastic to collaborate with someone as inquisitive as the composer Kasper Rofelt, who has an urge to go on excursions into the practically endless and still un-explored musical possibilities presented by the accordion.
Inspired by recent works by among other composers Per Nørgård, Kalevi Aho and Sofia Gubaidulina, Kasper Rofelt has found a unique approach to the instrument. The span from the atmospheric Charybdis to the impactful and colourful Light Falling clearly shows a composer with a fully developed, personal musical idiom. A third dimen--sion is represented in Twisted Tango, where elements from entertainment music turn the thoughts to composers like Astor Piazzolla and Jacob Gade.
In 2008 I asked Kasper Rofelt to write a collection of works for accordion that could offer the instrument something on the line of Ligeti's ground-breaking way of using the piano in his tech-nical and musical études based on a single musical idea. The collection Concert Studies exploits the technical potential of the accordion at a brand new level of virtuosity, and Kasper Rofelt deliberately guides our ears towards a universe that refers to Ligeti's Etudes pour piano.
It is a pleasure to present a CD that contains so many different musical characters and expressions. For me personally it has been a technically demanding but fruitful chal-lenge to get to grips with these works in depth, and I hope they will become a welcome contribution to the repertoire of accordionists.
I wish the listener a pleasant journey into Kasper Rofelt's fascinating universe of music dedicated to the modern classical accordion!
Bjarke Mogensen, 2012
Kasper Rofelt's (b. 1982) first published work was Distruzione una sinfonia, which he finished at the age of 22; but the music had followed him long before that. Even before he took his school leaving exam in the modern language line from the N. Zahle Upper Secon-dary School in 2001, where he had a number of his youthful works performed, he studied music with several musical personalities, including Karsten Fundal (compo-sition, theory), Jørn Jørkov (conducting) and Søren Gleerup (organ).
The music from this time is stylistically searching and does not belong to the works he himself regards as part of his authorized oeuvre, although they evince a num-ber of characteristic features that were later to constitute his musical fingerprint. This is true of among other things his thinking on ‘associative tonality' and on melody.
After high school he trained in composition and music theory at the Royal Danish Academy of Music with teachers including Bent Sørensen and Niels Rosing-Schow in his major subjects, as well as studies with Per Nørgård in 2006-2010 in parallel with the Academy.
This period was extremely productive, and he wrote a large quantity of works for many different types of instrumental configuration and in many genres. Among the major works from this period that should be mentioned are the accordion concerto Shadow Phases (2007/2009), Light Falling (2008) for accordion and cello, Saxophone Concerto in Four Miniatures (2009) for saxophone and chamber ensemble and Sym-phony no. 1 (2009-2010) for large symphony orchestra.
A long succession of solo works from the same period testifies to his way of ex-ploiting the technical possibilities of the instruments, but at the same time they are typical of his style and thus important to mention: Das Diaphorische (2006) for transverse flute, Circulaire 1 (2006) and Shadow Pieces (2007) for accordion, Études pour le piano (2008-), Sérénade pour Ionesco (2009) for harp, Nebulous Toccata (2009) for guitar, Epanalepsis (2009) for organ, and Entourage (2010) for recorder.
He has himself mentioned that sonority and technique are such important aspects of his way of forming the music that in the great majority of cases they cannot be sepa-rated from the work. If one takes a work like Nebulous Toccata for guitar, for example, the nature of the guitar (sonority, instrumental technique and expression, for example) is integrated so closely with the work that it makes no sense to transcribe this work for other instruments, since a transcription would destroy its underlying idea and distinctive expression.
However, a few works do exist in several versions. This may be because they have been reworked with special reference to the idiomatic features of a new instru-mental ensemble, as is the case for example with Nightsong (originally for piano), which exists in a wealth of different versions, each with its point of departure in the special technical potential and sonorities of the instruments involved. This means that the music can only be performed on the specified instruments. Or else it is because the transcribed music is based so much on pitches rather than timbre and instrumental technique that a transcription would not crucially change the basic idea. This is however the exception rather than the rule.
WORKS WITH ACCORDION
by Kasper Rofelt
For a composer it is a true gift when one meets musicians who are prepared to enter into a close collaboration. Without a shadow of doubt my own output would probably have looked very different today, if I had not met Bjarke Mogensen in 2006. In our collabo-ration we have tried out lots of ideas, and it has been very satisfactory: especially because we have worked together for en extended period of years and have been able to return to the works to polish the details.
This CD can be seen as a cross-section through my previous production. The works are very different, because they are associated with different stylistic directions in my music. It is a long way from the universe of Shadow Pieces and the two Night Songs to Falling Light and the concert studies. Whereas Shadow Pieces has its origin in the lyrical world of the accordion concerto Shadow Phases, in Light Falling I have worked with a very direct kind of rawness and virtuosity. Shadow Pieces tried to hint at more than what we directly hear, whereas Light Falling and the concert studies were con-ceived as abstract music and appeal, I think, to the listener's senses in a more direct way.
Shadow Pieces (2007) is a collection of four pieces, of which Midnight, Twilight Toccata, Twisted Tango and Darkness Dimming were recorded in this session. The pieces were written at the request of Bjarke after he had given my accordion concerto Shadow Phases its first performance.
The musical material comes from the accordion concerto, while the "shadow pieces" are independent works without consideration for the way the material is used in the concerto. What they share, however, is the cultivation of a dark colouring of the sonority of the music, which constitutes "the shadows".
Midnight is the picture of someone in love who wakes up at midnight and cannot sleep because he is thinking of his beloved. At first it is very dreamlike, but in time it becomes more passionate.
Twilight Toccata is a freely formed movement that includes important material, especially from the last movement of Shadow Phases. The accordionist is given plenty of scope to demonstrate his technical and musical skills in this virtuoso tour de force. The work incidentally includes a friendly nod to Sofia Gubaidulina's work De pro-fun-dis, which is one of my favourite works for accordion.
Twisted Tango is based on a dance-like but metrically mutable theme from the solo cadenza in the second movement of the accordion concerto. In this connection it assumes many different forms and is among other things transformed into pitch-black, vibrant clouds in the low registers of the instrument, and into long festoons of notes that are only shadows of the original theme.
La canción que nunca diré
This short piece from 2009 is an adaptation of one of my three Lorca songs from 2008 for tenor and accordion.
Lorca's poetry has always meant a lot to me. I think it reflects human emotional life in a very precise way, and the colourful metaphors appeal strongly to my imagination, as I hope is clear in this little song for two musicians, where I have tried to capture the mood of the poem.
The title comes from the poem Verlaine. The first stanza is:
que nunca diré,
se ha dormido en mis labios.
que nunca diré.
The translation is:
I'll never sing
fell silent on my lips.
I'll never sing.
Nightsong 1 & 2
My Nightsongs (2008-09) have gradually become an extended series based on a four-part chorale piece that popped into my head ready-made one morning in 2008. The pieces are distinctive in their different treatments of the same material, although I have tried to preserve the fundamental mood of the original chorale piece.
At the beginning of the version for cello and accordion (Nightsong 1) I have tried simply to suggest the original music. Loose fragments of the Nightsong melody are pre-sented ethereally with changing counter melodies. The chorale movement becomes ever clearer, however, until it appears in its most elaborated version a good two thirds into the piece, after which it disintegrates again.
I like my composition teacher Bent Sørensen's description of this piece as a movement submerged in water. Gradually it approaches the surface and thus recogni-za-bility, after which it finally comes up into the open air and shows all its details before sinking back into the water and being distorted again.
Nightsong 2 is different: the violin and the accordion meditate on various har-monic and rhythmic elements in the chorale piece and create a ground for a number of variations that show new aspects of otherwise familiar music.
Three concert studies
These three concert studies have been taken from Book One of Concert Studies for Classical Accordion (2008-2009). They are all characterized by extreme virtuosity designed to demonstrate the technical possibilities as well as the sonorities of the instru-ment.
It is unlikely that I would have written them if I had not had the possibility of having them played by an accordionist as gifted as Bjarke. The studies make extreme demands on the musician's stamina and at the same time require the technical free-dom necessary to form them musically, so they can become more than just ‘show‑off' -pieces.
The first study has the marking Presto capriccioso and is a tour de force in leap-ing chords. Their complex harmonic background gradually becomes more simplified, and what was once continuous chords is broken up into long chains of notes. One could say that the chords are stretched out in time and become a different type of music. This can be heard in the second part of the study, where the note repetitions and changing times colour the music.
The challenge of the second study lies in keeping a flowing tempo despite the varying textures, which put the fingers to a hard test. Among other things the musician is asked to execute accelerations, complex polyphony, long legato passages that must be sustained in a natural way in relation to the overall flow.
The third study is highly static in expression, but disturbed by fast chains of notes and almost electrical-sounding vibrations. For the musician this is about keeping a cool head while contradictory rhythmic feelings alternate throughout the study.
The Studies are dedicated to Bjarke Mogensen.
In Greek mythology Charybdis is a whirlpool that Odysseus has to pass in the course of his long voyage. This work from 2010 for two accordions is an abstract description of Charybdis itself rather than the action of the Odyssey. The various elements of the music seem to float around as if driven by an invisible current which at first is quite calm, but in time increases in strength and grows more powerful until it once more falls calm at the end of the work.
According to the mythology this whirlpool is almost impossible to escape, so one is lost once one is caught by it. On the other hand one has to sail past the cliff where the monster Scylla lives if one wants to avoid Charybdis - and thus risk being devoured rather than drowning. Odysseus chose to sail around Charybdis, but through this man-oeu-vre lost part of his crew to the ravenous appetite of Scylla.
In Light Falling (2008) for cello and accordion I have worked with the idea of a battle between light and darkness. The sombre introductory chords generate a counter-world of light that takes over as the work progresses, until we end in a lighter, more trans-pa-rent world. The musicians stand in the midst of the struggle, and their music consists equally of light and darkness.
Fragmentation, drama and intensity are the fundamental expressive modes. The work was inspired by some dark, rain-filled clouds that I saw a few sunbeams pene-trating through. It was more or less possible to observe the passage of the light down to the earth because the air was full of damp and dust.
The work was written for Bjarke Mogensen and Toke Møldrup.